FFRF to Marbury High School: Stop displaying illegal religious banners | News
PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - An Autauga County school is the latest to receive a letter of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding religious verses displayed on banners by the high school's cheerleaders.
Autauga County Superintendent Spence Agee was contacted through the letter by FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt regarding banners containing bible verses displayed by the Marbury High School cheerleaders for the players to run through.
Schmitt wrote, "We were contacted by a concerned district alumnus...It is our information and understanding that Marbury High School cheerleaders regularly display religious banners that the football team runs through before athletic competitions. We understand that each week a different bible verse is displayed for all to observe...You must take immediate action to stop these religious banners from being part of school-sponsored events."
The Autauga County School District is the latest in a long line of schools to receive similar letters from the FFRF. One such incident, a letter sent to Kountze ISD in Kountze, TX, has garnered national headlines. When the school district ordered the cheerleaders to stop displaying the banners, the state stepped in to defend Texas law for freedom of expression.
In the letter to the Autauga County School District, Schmitt goes on to write, "Our purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church...It is illegal for a public school to organize, sponsor, or lead religious messages at school athletic events."
Schmitt sites numerous court cases in the letter that strike down teacher, school, and student-led prayer. Schmitt followed with, "Like the student-initiated prayers in [Santa Fe Indp. Sch. Dist. v. Doe], student-initiated religious banners that the football team must run through are also inappropriate and unconstitutional. Public high school events must me secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students. Autauga County Schools must take immediate action to ensure that religious messages are not part of any school-sponsored events."
Schmitt also states that these messages constitute an "unconstitutional government endorsement of religion" and that the banners send an "impermissible message" to some students stating that they are outsiders and not full members of the community.
The letter calls the banner a "flagrant violation of the First Amendment."
WSFA 12 News is still awaiting comment from Superintendent Agee and the Autauga County School Board.
Read the full letter of complaint HERE.
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